March 10, 2016 Ask Owen

How the Right or Wrong EHR Can Make or Break Your Practice

Are you still keeping paper-based health records? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In fact, at least a third of all medical practices have not gone digital. That number fluctuates depending on your speciality and practice size. It turns out that smaller practices are less likely to use electronic health records (EHRs).

But with so many positives that come with using EHRs, should you consider it for your private practice? Is going digital right for you and your clients? And, if you do go digital, what are the best practices for keeping electronic health records?

In today’s post, we’re going to tackle everything from the basics of EHR to common pitfalls you should steer clear of. Let’s get directly into it.

The Basics of EHR


EHR stands for Electronic Health Records. As its name suggests, EHR records are completely digital with no paper trail. These records exist “in the cloud.” This means that the records are stored on a server computer off-site and accessible through a reliable Internet connection.

An EHR usually includes contact information, medical history, progress notes, prescribed medications, allergies, and hospitalization records, for starters. As a mental health private practice, you must also include or exclude information as necessary.

The Benefits of EHR

What are the benefits of EHR for your private practice? We’ve taken the opportunity to highlight our favorite reasons below:

benefits-of-counseling-ehrImage Courtesy of

Ease of Sharing. With paper records, it’s time-consuming to coordinate care between doctors or other involved parties. Instead of faxing or mailing records, an EHR makes it easier to quickly share information. This leads to improved client care.

Easier to Organize. Managing hundreds or even thousands of paper records isn’t easy. You may even run out of space and have to find new, creative ways to store your ever-expanding library of health records. But storing isn’t the only problem– it’s also a pain to access this information. You and your staff will waste time locating a lost record or filing away a new one.

With an EHR, everything is available at the click of a button or two.

Enhanced Privacy and Security. Since health records are stored in the cloud, behind passwords and encryption keys, there’s a higher level of security.

Saves Money. Keeping electronic files means you have more space (literally) to devote to your practice. Your records room can turn into another office space. You’ll also free up the time you and your staff spend documenting and recording notes. There’s something so satisfying about having a software that auto-completes the basic details such as name, age, and date. You’ll also reduce input error.

Legibility. Feel free to insert any funny jokes you may have about doctor prescriptions– it’ll work here. Reading through a handwritten EHR is like deciphering hieroglyphics without the Rosetta Stone.

By contrast, an EHR software requires correct coding and gives you the opportunity to double-check that you’ve entered the right information.

Environmentally friendly. If being green is important to you even a little, consider going with EHR. You’ll save between 10-13 sheets of paper for each client each visit. Consider how many clients you see on a daily or weekly basis. That adds up.

More efficient. Approximately 75% of users find that EHRs improve their efficiency. EHRs reduce redundancy because you won’t have to manually record the same information in multiple locations.

benefits-of-mental-health-ehrImage Courtesy of

EHR Best Practices

Now that you’ve learned about the reasons to choose an EHR, let’s talk about the best practices to follow:

Be prepared for the learning curve. EHRs take a while to learn and master. This is especially true if you’re transitioning from a paper-only system. Expect to spend around 25 hours of training before feeling confident in using EHRs.

When you’re confident in moving over to a practice management software, it’s time to plan an implementation strategy that eases transition. Some ideas include:

Stagger training sessions so that everyone in your practice learns at a time that’s convenient for them and your office schedule. This will also give you needed coverage at the front office while others are learning in the back office. Otherwise, it’s really difficult to coordinate a time when you can all work together.

Be flexible. Remember that in choosing to digitize your health records (and your practice management), you’re also going to change a lot of your processes. Be willing to embrace change and roll with the transition. It’s not always easy to change, especially if you’re accustomed to one way of doing things, but with the right EHR software, you’ll always be supported each step of the way.

Don’t choose the first EHR software vendor you find. Not all EHR software is created equal. Choose a software from a company that takes time to provide valuable resources and educate you on how to use their software. You should also check out their customer service availability. Last, but not least, look for testimonials on their site along with third party online reviews.

Fancy animations and a slick interface isn’t all there is to a competent EHR software.

Also, don’t get caught up in the numbers game. Just because a software is more expensive doesn’t mean that it offers more value. Spend some time researching multiple EHR software vendors across multiple price points to see what they offer. You may be surprised that the most affordable for your budget is also the most robust.

Test multiple EHR software platforms. While we hope you choose us, we want you to go with the software that works best for your private practice. Go with one that’s tailor-made for mental health private practices, though.

Consider trying three different software demos. Before you start the demo, be sure to outline the elements that are most important to you in an EHR software. See how it flows with your processes. Consider the learning curve for your office staff.

Be sure to take notes. Record initial impressions, concerns, and questions you may have. After you’ve tried a few different types of EHR software, compare notes and see which one worked best for your needs.

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